Is Arroyo Worth it?

According to John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer, the Reds will pick up Bronson Arroyo’s option after the season. Arroyo’s option calls for $11 million, and by picking it up, the Reds will forgo a $2 million buyout.

In the same article, Fay also notes that the Reds will not be picking up Aaron Harang’s option. That leaves the following pitchers as potential options for the Cincinnati opening day starting rotation: Arroyo, Johnny Cueto, Edinson Volquez, Travis Wood, Homer Bailey, Mike Leake, Matt Maloney, Sam LeCure, and, potentially, Aroldis Chapman.

Therefore, when evaluating this contract, we need to not only compare Arroyo to replacement level but also to the level of these other starters that the Reds have available. Arroyo put up 1.7 WAR in 2009, with a mediocre 4.61 FIP but a solid, .246 BABIP supported 3.88 ERA. Overall, Arroyo was a 1.7 WAR pitcher, but thanks to his good ERA, his performance was worth much more than that to the Reds last season.

Arroyo definitely could be the kind of guy who can outperform his FIP, but I would hesitate to project another season in which his results better his peripherals by three quarters of a run or more. Arroyo has a slightly low career BABIP of .290 and his LOB rates are very close to league average. As such, we should expect the difference between Arroyo’s FIP and ERA to be somewhere between zero and his career average of 0.27 instead of the 0.72 we saw in 2010.

According to CHONE’s most recent projections, Arroyo is a 4.48 ERA pitcher. Of the other starters listed above, none of them have a projected ERA above 4.78 (Chapman doesn’t have a projection). CHONE projects five starters (aside from Arroyo) to put up at least 17 RAR and three others to put up 11 RAR. It appears that the young depth that the Reds have would be able to cover the loss of Arroyo quite well. Arroyo probably provides half a win to one win above the rest of the Reds rotation, making $11 million a high price to pay.

However, with the Reds coming off their first playoff season in 15 seasons, Walt Jocketty probably isn’t terribly willing to risk success on five extremely young starters. To him, the relatively marginal upgrade of Arroyo over those young pitchers appears to be worth the premium. As the commitment is only for one season and the Reds have already expressed an intention to increase payroll, this kind of contract certainly isn’t going to kill the Reds, either in 2011 or in the future.

Despite that, the Reds aren’t a team without weaknesses, and they may be able to do better than Arroyo with that $11 million. The free agent crop at SP is relatively thin this year, and that makes holding on to Arroyo a safe use of their money. If players like Scott Rolen and Drew Stubbs and Johnny Cueto perform as well as they did last year, that may be enough for a repeat NL Central championship. If not, the Reds may find themselves wishing they made a bigger play with their money than the relatively stable but unimpressive Arroyo.

Jack Moore's work can be seen at VICE Sports and anywhere else you're willing to pay him to write. Buy his e-book.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
11 years ago

Smart move by the Reds. Likely outcomes:

1. Arroyo pitches well – gets his ERA in the low 4’s. The team does well also and Arroyo is a key part to their success.

2. Arroyo pitches well – gets his ERA in the low 4’s. The team does not do well. Arroyo is flipped to a contender for some quality prospects. The Reds are on the hook for $6-7m but gain his 120 innings + any prospects in return.

3. Arroyo doesn’t pitch well. The team can try to off-load him while eating much of his contract or just ride the season out receiving minimal benefit.

The first two options are the most likely and both are a win for the Reds. The last option would suck but that risk is inherent with virtually any player.

11 years ago
Reply to  BJsWorld

I wouldn’t say the Reds can expect “quality prospects” in return. Look at the Cubs/Dodgers trade involving Ted Lilly, who is a superior pitcher (I’d say Lilly is a 2 or 3 on most MLB rotations, Arroyo a 3-5) with a similar contract. Lilly and Ryan Theriot were traded for Blake DeWitt, Brett Wallach (who has some upside but isn’t a great prospect) and Kyle Smit (top end is as a set up guy in the majors, more likely a middle reliever).

I think that’s the top end of what the Reds could expect for Arroyo. Either way, though, the Central is likely a weak division that the Reds should win, IMO. The Cardinals are the only other contender, and they really can’t afford to add anybody of significance with Pujols, Holliday, Wainwright and Carp taking up so much of their budget and needing to save money for Pujols’ new extension.

11 years ago
Reply to  Noah

I don’t think anyone said they expected the return in prospects in a potential trade to be “quality”. BJsWorld, for instance, said “any prospects”.

11 years ago
Reply to  Noah

Ah, I see he said quality, then any. I agree, that there wouldn’t be any “quality” coming our way unless the other team was deranged, desperate, and/or not paying a penny of Arroyo’s remaining salary. It would also have to be a case of Arroyo pitching extremely well while the team fell out of contention. Not impossible, but a lot to expect from a regression candidate.

The Arroyo signing would appear to have a lot more to do with personality and makeup than anything else. He has a rep as a professional who’s well prepared for games and who doesn’t flap easily. I think Jack is right on the money in his analysis that picking up the option isn’t without risk, but it’s also not some crippling decision. There’s something to be said for continuity when your team is a young-ish one.